By Chen Chekki
Canada a Vital Trade Partner for U.S., Diplomat Says During Lakehead Visit
There's no way but up for trade between Canada and the United States, the U.S. consul general to Ontario said yesterday in Thunder Bay.
"It can only grow," Antoinette Marwitz said on the last day of her two-day familiarization tour through the city.
The woman who represents her nation to most of Ontario is visiting the province's Northwest for her first time. She visited the city's airport and the Confederation College Aviation Centre of Excellence, as well as forestry officials and businesses that trade with the U.S.
"She seems to understand the need for a seamless trading relationship between the two countries," said Derik Brandt, manager of the city's tourism and economic development division. "It's in neither country's interest to have a trade dispute."
He said the city's trade wit the U.S. is "vital."
It forms a part of Canada's trade with the U.S. that's worth $1 million a minute - $1.4 billion dollars a day, Marwitz said. She said most of that comes from Ontario.
"There's no better trading partner than Ontario," she said.
One of her stops was Duracon Tile and Concrete. The Thunder Bay-based business exports granite counter tops to the U.S., which currently gives the company 25 per cent of its total sales.
The company last year made $100,000 from exporting granite counter tops to the United States. With annual cross-border sales of $1 million expected in the next few years, Duracon is getting even more pumped about dealing with Canada's Southern neighbour, said its sales and marketing manager.
"What's recognized in the United States is Canadian workmanship," John Hakala said.
Staffed with seven workers, the business's trade with the U.S. is made easy from a generally low Canadian dollar, short distance to the U.S., growing U.S. demand for their product, and co-operative Canadian and U.S. border officials.
"We've never had a problem," said the company's president, John Naccarato.
"I think a lot more companies should look at what product they have and look at exporting them to the United States. It's a big market."
But a shortage of skilled labour poses a challenge to such businesses trying to expand to satisfy the hungry U.S. market.
One possible remedy is for the province to recognize the work in ships such as Duracon as trades, said MPP Michael Gravelle, (L-Thunder Bay Superior North_. He said this would allow the government to help pay for apprenticeships, helping to boost the number of skilled trade workers.
"The opportunities are virtually endless," Gravelle said.
Marwitz will also visit Fort Frances, Dryden, Atikokan and Kenora this weekend before returning to Toronto early next week.